Community Resiliency

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A Message from the Boulder County Commissioners

Many people in our community were impacted by the 2013 Flood. Hundreds of County residents can’t return home, have no home to return to, or have significant damages to their homes. 

This disaster was different than past disasters in Boulder County in how it has changed the landscape. Rivers and creeks have selected new paths. Properties have been washed away and covered in tons of debris.  Access to homes has been destroyed. Debris clogs many waterways. The drainages and watersheds that have historically absorbed and slowed down runoff during the spring thaws and heavy rains may no longer have the topsoil necessary for this task.
We have been using this word “resiliency” when talking about recovery from this disaster. Rebuilding with resiliency means protecting your home or business so that it can better handle the next incident, and for some, this means not rebuilding at all, at least not in the same location.

There is a sense from some of our neighbors that they alone are taking the risk to return home. But their risk is the community’s risk. It is a risk to our first responders who help rescue people and to private property and public infrastructure downstream who will receive the debris from construction in the floodplain. Local governments such as Boulder County have a responsibility to regulate development in the floodplain or else we may jeopardize the ability for everyone in our jurisdiction to obtain flood insurance.

Boulder County is taking a thoughtful and cautious approach to rebuilding. We need to understand the long-term implications of decisions we make today and how they will impact and inform the outcome of the next disaster.  We have instituted a Hazard Mitigation Review process which will allow those people who can effectively mitigate future hazard risk to get back to their homes. While our cautiousness may seem frustrating to some, we believe it will result in a safer, more resilient community that has been (re)built to last.

The county is working diligently to assess the future hazards and make informed decisions that will provide the base for further activities in recovery.  People’s lives have been turned upside-down by this event. Boulder County is working with the community to balance the need to rebuild with the need to plan wisely for the next natural disaster. 

In the words of the late Gilbert F. White, Professor of Geography at the University of Colorado and founder and Director of the university’s Natural Hazards Center:

“There is a sobering finality in the construction of a river basin development; and it behooves us to be sure we are right before we go ahead.”